City of Beasts

I haven’t read Harry Potter. Sometimes it seems like I’m the only adult in the world that hasn’t and the reason is that I’m not a child and therefore I don’t read children’s literature. Plus, I have an uncontrollable contrarian streak that prevents me from partaking in mass cultural crazes, which is why I don’t have an ipod either.

Any how, sometimes it is really hard to tell what is YA and what isn’t, especially if you’re not in a bookshop where they’ve conveniently categorised everything for you. At my office there’s a book drop where people can pick up and leave books. Handy when I unexpectedly finish a book on the way in and then have nothing left to read on my hour and a half commute home.

The first book I pulled out of the book drop was City of Beasts by Isabel Allende. On the whole, I enjoyed it very much but I found it took a while to get going. There’s a fair bit of exposition at the beginning and the language often feels a little stilted. Once into it, it’s a very engaging tale of a young boy travelling with his grandmother to the Amazon jungle and discovering a magical, strange city of beasts. It is quite fantastical and does raise the question about where the boundary between fantasy and magical realism lies. The structure is mythic and it has an old-fashioned feel about it – but in a way that is charming rather than patronising.

I googled the book because it’s been a few weeks between reading it and getting round to posting here, and I discovered that this is Allende’s first YA novel and that there are two sequels. I don’t think I’ll make an effort to read the sequels but I would certainly recommend it for teenagers.

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